JEFFERSON CITY — Key Missouri lawmakers say a prescription drug monitoring program that Republican Gov. Eric Greitens created through an executive order doesn't go far enough and that legislation is still needed.
At issue is the program's focus on overprescribing doctors instead of doctor-shopping patients. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Greitens' plan differs significantly from what has been debated in the Legislature and what is in place in other states and in more than 26 counties and jurisdictions across Missouri.
That's because Greitens' system won't allow doctors to see if a patient has already been prescribed an opioid before writing a new prescription. His plan is focused on analyzing prescription and dispensing data in an effort to target what he described as "pill mills" that pump out prescription drugs at "dangerous and unlawful levels."
Sen. Dave Schatz, a Sullivan Republican, said a statewide program similar to one he shepherded through the Senate this spring remains the long-term goal.
"What this tool ultimately boils down to is to allow doctors to make informed decisions when prescribing," Schatz said of his bill.
In the House, Democratic leader Gail McCann Beatty, of Kansas City, called Greitens' plan a "publicity stunt."
"House Democrats believe strongly in creating a real statewide prescription monitoring program, but the only way that can happen is if the Legislature enacts a law authorizing one. If the governor sincerely wants to address the opioid crisis, then he should work to convince Republican lawmakers to support the necessary legislation," McCann Beatty said.
On Tuesday, Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams acknowledged the program is just one piece of a more comprehensive push to address the abuse of painkillers.
"It's a start," he said. "Obviously we need to build out."
The governor's plan drew concern from St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who worried that it could affect a monitoring program he launched that is being pieced together across the state on a county level. Currently, in the absence of a statewide program, more than two dozen counties covering 58 percent of the state's population have implemented their own monitoring program. More are set to join next month.
"This is not in any way competitive with the St. Louis model," Williams said. "We think they are complementary."
Schatz said that, despite the need for a more comprehensive monitoring program, he credits the governor for shining a spotlight on the issue of opioid addiction.
"I think it continues to bring emphasis on the problem that exists," Schatz said.